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Pandemonium    by Daryl Gregory order for
by Daryl Gregory
Order:  USA  Can
Del Rey, 2008 (2008)
Softcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Belle Dessler

Del Pierce, a 20-something slacker still trying to find his lot in life after a series of dead-end jobs, could be any one of us, save for one significant factor: he's possessed by an entity called the Hellion, who thrives on making mischief. The deadly kind.

In Del's world, possessions aren't at all unusual. In the 1950s, entities began to take over the bodies and souls of men, women and children. Each entity is different in its intent and the acts it performs through its host. There's the Truth, which seeks out liars and punishes them, the Captain, a solider who's all too happy to sacrifice himself for the greater good, and the Little Angel, who brings death with a kiss. These are just a small sample of the entities that ordinary folks must deal with. On most occasions, entities take over, perform whatever acts entice them, and then move on - leaving the host either dead, no worse for wear, or somewhere in between.

Del, however, wasn't so lucky. Possessed by the Hellion when he was only a child, he struggled through sessions of therapy and his family's caring to exorcise the entity. In the end, the Hellion left ... or did it? Years later, a car accident seems to bring the entity back. And this time, Del may never be rid of him. Del's quest for freedom from the beast inside his head leads him to all manner of interesting characters, like Philip K. Dick, the science fiction writer who's struggling with an unwelcome entity of his own. Will Del be able to exorcise the demon without losing himself?

Gregory has penned a remarkably ambitious novel. It's billed as fantasy, and rightly so, but what makes Pandemonium unique is the way Gregory grounds the story in the here-and-now, then throws in quite a bit of pop culture to sweep readers along for the ride. Although this is Gregory's debut novel, he's written a number of short stories for magazines such as Asimov's and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and it shows. His prose is stellar, lush and evocative without being bogged down by its own richness.

The plot develops quickly and moves along at a brisk pace, which should entice fantasy fans who prefer action-adventure stories to character-driven ones. That's not to say that Pandemonium doesn't offer some brilliant characters it does, beginning with Del himself. One of my favorite aspects of the novel was the frequent allusion to pop culture. Appearances by Philip K. Dick, O.J. Simpson and even a dead-ringer for Sinead O'Connor help imbue the book with an entertaining slant on alternate reality. Fans of original fantasy fiction will be delighted with this demonic offering.

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